In the world of yakitori and kushiyaki while chicken steals the headlines the often forgotten pig also plays a major role.
A mention on blood and wasabi about bacon is long overdue, not only for the fact that we seem to spend half out lives wrapping everything that doesn’t move in paper thin sheets of the stuff, but also for anyone keen to try this at home, summer is disappearing fast, for any hope of a home barbeque it’s last chance saloon.
Bacon is gods gift to the grill, its subtle smoky pork flavouring is lifted to new heights when cooked over an open fire. What we are most interested in though is its magical rendering quality, for a cuisine that prides itself on its minimal use of oil, bacon is our natural lubricant.
A translucent layer of good quality pork can sex-up the humblest of ingredient. Items that were previously afraid of the grill are given a juicy protective coat.
So which bacon should you use?
Sadly the majority of bacon found in shops and supermarkets in the UK and Japan is utter rubbish – pumped full of salty brine this stuff will leak it’s milky white poison all over your grill. yuk. Steer well clear.
It has to be dry cured; In Japan Italian pancetta is king, the Spanish version with the subtle addition of pimenton is a close second. Some of the better supermarkets in the UK are beginning to wake up so shop around. Lucky you if you happen to live near an Italian delicatessan, speak to them nicely and they may even slice it for you.
At Bincho we use both but our favourite without doubt is the French version – ventreche.
The scruffy chap that sits on the edge of Dijon’s faboulous food market selling his home made charcuterie just happens to be the France’s biggest yakitori fan. His black pepper crusted ventreche is the stuff of legends. Any excuse he gets he will be in Soho munching on skewers.
If you get the opportunity to pop over the channel ventreche is widely available – a must buy for aspiring grill chefs.
So what to wrap?
Amongst the vegetables asparagus is the most popular and a fixture on virtually every Izakaya menu in Japan [ in-season British of course is best]. Mushrooms are awesome – Asian varieties eringi and enoki especially good. Cherry tomatoes explosive.
As for seafood choose fish with a low oil content – scallops are the most popular, oysters, prawns, octopus and squid tentacles all work a treat. Try cubes of white fish, even boring old pollack and whiting seem to sing under the spell of the swine.
Finally lets not forget quail eggs, immensly popular, hugely labour intensive and absolutely worth the effort.
So simply take your ingredients, wrap in your translucent slices of bacon, skewer and grill – a few wedges of lemon and your away.
It's really that simple, now all you need to do is wait for the sun…..